Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Three Recent Chance The Rapper Cameos You Need to Hear

Unless you're living under a rock, it isn't news that Chance The Rapper is one of the most incredible things to happen to hip-hop. Or, rather, music. Between his genius bars ("God level," as Kanye West recently described them), working with his instrumental band Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment and dabbling in almost all genres, the 23 year-old unsigned artist is a seemingly endless source of creativity, who's revolutionizing the hip-hop sound.

And, the best part is, similar to so many other greats in their early days, Chance isn't limiting his creative input to his own solo work; he's lending vocal and lyrical contributions left, right and center. While I could go on and on about his third solo mixtape Coloring Book, here are three must-hear Chance cameos:

Girls (feat. Chance The Rapper) - Joey Purp: It's that time of year where the "song of the summer" debate starts to really take off, even though I think it's still to early to tell. But, if I'm going to call it, in my books, this fire Joey Purp single is where it's at. The Neptunes-esque beat comes from Knox Fortune, who's behind the disco banger "All Night" off Chance's Coloring Book (another solid contender). Although Purp is still a relatively lowkey member of Chance's SaveMoney Crew, he holds his own alongside Chano's croaky flow, making me think this one could blink on the mainstream radar soon. (Joey Purp's new mixtape iiidrops is also worth a listen.)

The First Time - Donnie Trumpet: Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment's critically acclaimed album Surf dropped one year ago last week, resurrecting last summer's memories of perching on balconies and park grass alongside its jazzy, star-studded tunes. Honestly, will there ever be a better summer album? To commemorate the masterpiece, Donnie Trumpet uploaded an 11-minute long medley of unused Surf material that features Chance, Dustin Green, Cam Obi and more. The beautiful mix paints an eclectic sonic picture - showcasing what Donnie calls "an ode to the era."

Waves/Famous (Chance The Rapper demos) - Kanye West: Everyone remembers Chance's game-changing verse on The Life of Pablo's "Ultralight Beam," but some aren't aware of his heavy involvement in the rest of Kanye's huge eighth album. Chance is apparently the reason for TLOP's delayed release, because he (thankfully) fought so hard for "Waves" to make the cut (as well as contributed his coined croon to the original demo). He also dropped a mean verse on the first run of "Famous," the Rihanna-kissed hit that he still refers to as "Nina Chop." Listen to the demos below, as revealed on Zane Lowe's Beats1 show.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

I Don't Want A World Without The Tragically Hip.

This week, I've surprised myself with how many times I've gotten choked up trying to word exactly how much The Tragically Hip mean to me.

Not just what they mean to a Canadian music fan who's witnessed their long, fruitful career as one of the country's most cherished bands. But, what they've meant to me, a girl who also grew up in their native Kingston, Ontario, knowing she wanted to make even the slightest contribution to music outside of our small city limits.

On an average Saturday morning in downtown Kingston, it wasn't uncommon to pass by The Hip and their families. Or see one of them cheering on the sidelines at your soccer finals. Or speaking at your graduation. My high school, which most of the band members attended (as well as their children after them), was decorated with mention of these hometown heroes. They were everywhere, and rightfully so, because they achieved so much more - on a large, powerful scale - than a small city would expect of some high school friends. And despite being wildly accomplished, they remained humble and seemingly regular. They never stopped coming home, and therefore, their music never stopped feeling like home.

Their music, however - and more specifically, Gord Downie - has never been overly accessible. Although it's some of the most widely known rock music in Canadian history, nothing about it has been easy or predictable. It's not sugary radio-rock that people "get" off the bat, which is perhaps why it would be hard to play The Hip for an international friend and have them immediately understand their importance. The band's lyricism, instrumentation, and quirky, formidable frontman have been beautifully non-conformist from the get-go; so much so that placing them alongside anything or anyone else feels futile. Their artwork is distinctly Canadian - and, not just in their frequent mention of Ontario locales, but in so many other ways I've never really been able to articulate. From their 1989 full-length debut through to their 11, soon to be 12, other albums, The Hip have flourished in a complete space of their own, almost effortlessly, because of their depth and originality. They really are heroes for that.

Gord Downie never tried to fit himself nor his band into a box, and because of that, they've grown into something inexplicably special. And Downie has become, hands down, the most memorable Canadian rock frontman of our time.

I don't like the idea of a world where I don't get to see Gord Downie perform once every two years. I don't want them to stop releasing albums. I want to be eternally curious what Gordie is going to say and do in between songs. But, his timeless legacy (including this 11-stop final tour), and the memories painted over most streets of my hometown - where it all began for the band and myself - will have to be enough. And, from here on out - especially after this year in music - I think I'll be a little more conscious of and grateful for the artists we still have with us, making the biggest difference in our lives just by creating.

I've watched the band's perfect SNL performance of "Grace, Too" hundreds of times over the years, and this week in itself, maybe 15 times. I find a little solace in it, and hopefully you can, too.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Listen to Father John Misty's New Song: "Real Love Baby"

I've been a huge Josh Tillman fan all the way from his solo beginnings as J. Tillman, through to his Fleet Foxes days and now as he continues releasing music as eccentric folk-rock persona, Father John Misty.

While I've loved almost everything he's created, after three listens to his brand new single "Real Love Baby" - I think I can already say this is one of my favourite songs he's ever released, under any name.

Father John Misty is no stranger to random song uploads, but they're usually of a parodic nature, unlike this country-rock beauty which is no spoof at all. The earworm melody, harmonies and sugary sentiment ("I want real love baby/ Ooo, don't leave me waiting") tip-toe into Beach Boys territory, while the jangly, sun-streaked stomp is the stuff of unabashed, anthemic folk-pop.

Beneath the song's Soundcloud link, Tillman commented "why not," and after his long string of musical spoofs, I can't help but agree.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Best New Track: Timmy's Prayer - Sampha

Delivering his first solo material since his 2013 Dual EP, celebrated R&B artist Sampha has finally returned with a new single, "Timmy's Prayer." While over the years the UK singer has lent cameos to Drake, Jessie Ware, Katy B and SBTRKT, to name a few, he had kept mum until an Instagram posted on Monday promised new music (which, as it turned out, dropped later that day).

Carried by his throaty croon, "Timmy's Prayer" is a deep-beated soul ballad that thumps along solemnly until electronic components mix their way in midway through. It's an honest, heartbroken song that doesn't explicitly allude to his hiatus, but hints that a part of himself might have spent these three years finding himself.

Friday, May 13, 2016

5 New Songs (I Think) You Need to Hear Now

After working from NYC most of this week, I'm just bursting with new songs to share. There's far more than this, but here's a mess of beautiful music that should send you off properly into the weekend. Back to regularly scheduled programming on Monday!

1. No Problem - Chance The Rapper (feat. 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne): Today, my beloved Chance The Rapper released his third mixtape Coloring Book, or Chance 3, to already widespread acclaim. Part gospel, hip-hop and dance album, it's brilliant, but I need so much more time with it. So, here' a single that he dropped in advance (yesterday), which proves Lil Wayne isn't done just yet, 2 Chainz is 2 Chainz, and Chano is just killing. the. game.

2. In A Drawer - Band of Horses (feat. J. Mascis): This sunshine-packed new BOH single comes ahead of their fifth album Why Are You OK and features Volkswagen enthusiast and Dinosaur Jr. frontman J. Mascis on the backing vocals. It's a sweet mid-tempo ballad that no doubt will lend well to sticking your head out a car window down an open road.

3. Survive - Mistah F.A.B. (feat. Kendrick Lamar, Crooked I and Kobe Honeycutt): Get Top on the phone! Kendrick joins TDE labelmate Mistah F.A.B. on this triumphant new cut from his forthcoming album Son of a Pimp 2. Kendrick opens the song with (obviously) powerful words about the cycle of youth street violence and crime, before F.A.B. follows up with equally compelling lyricism.

4. True Love Waits - Radiohead: If there's one album I've been playing on repeat up until today (the drop of Coloring Book) it was Radiohead's ninth album, A Moon Shaped Pool. "True Love Waits" has existed in Radiohead's live songbook for over 15 years and this long-overdue studio recording is perfection. Reminiscent of my favourite live Radiohead cut "Fog," this soft, tinkering piano ballad is devastatingly human. It's begging someone to stay, but saying that if they do go, true love will wait. (Here's the live acoustic guitar version - but I highly recommend getting your ears on the studio version over at Apple Music.)

5. Acid Test - River Tiber: Toronto R&B boy wonder Tommy Paxton-Beesley dropped the lush, instrument-packed first single from his forthcoming June LP Indigo yesterday via Zane Lowe's Beats1 show. Lowe's enthusiastic verbal praise of the young artist's efforts to date are all the indication one needs to know that River Tiber is no longer Toronto's best kept secret.

Friday, May 6, 2016

5 New Songs You Need To Hear Now

1. Casual Party - Band of Horses: Band of Horses, one of my all-time favourite groups, can do little wrong in my books. Even their least memorable albums are still filled with sweet alt-country anthems, and from the sounds of this summery highway-rock gem, we're going to get a solid dose of buoyancy with their forthcoming June release.

2. I Need a Forest Fire - James Blake & Bon Iver: These two indie staples, back at it again with the sultry electro balladry. On this slow-cooked collab, which comes as part of Blake's brand new album The Colour in Anything (out today), the harmonies created by Vernon's unmistakable falsetto churning together with Blake's soulful rasp are striking.

3. Lost Dreamers - Mutual Benefits: This dreamy piece about life on the road sounds exactly like what life on the road feels like. The soft xylophone, strings and barely-there vocals all convey the feeling of getting lost on purpose, finding adventure in nothingness and taking the long way home. If you make it through one listen without wanting to toss your smart phone out a moving car's window, I'll be impressed.

4. Don't Go - Hannah Georgas: Georgas's latest single, from her forthcoming album For Evelyn, is not for the faint of heart. Beginning with echoey coos before sliding into a chugging electronic beat and her melancholic plea, everything about "Don't Go" is darker Georgas than we're used to - yet beautiful, and a surefire way to feel longing. (Interestingly enough, when I first heard this, I immediately thought of my beloved Mom - and later read that Georgas did in fact write "Don't Go" for her Mother.)

5. Dukes - Repartee: Up-and-coming electro-poppers Repartee might hail from Newfoundland, but you won't find a fiddle in the mix here. Blending indie-rock edge with early Dragonette-style dance-pop, this sugary sweet fightin' love song is more and more addictive with each listen.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Five Favourite Tracks from Drake's 'VIEWS'

Each morning, I try to minimize the steps taken between my alarm going off and making it out the door to run - or else it's not happening. I fold my clothes at the end of my bed, put my socks in my untied shoes, hang my keys and my dog's leash at the door, etc. This past Friday, I had one crucial added step: downloading all 20 tracks off Drake's VIEWS to my phone, because I sure as hell wouldn't be listening to anything else.

Nor was the rest of the Toronto, from the sounds of it. Even at 6:30am, I heard it blaring from cars. I assumed other people jogging past me, and later in the day, in line for coffee or stepping on to the street car, were also plugged in with VIEWS. As is the case in many Torontonians, and the rest of the world, we become familiar with new Drake songs pretty quickly.

In my opinion, VIEWS isn't Drake's best album. It's too long and I'm growing a wee bit tired of the themes and corny lyricism. But that doesn't mean it doesn't sound very good. It's an easy listen; an accessible listen. And we owe that to producer/mastermind Noah '40' Shebib and his collaborators as much as we do the 6 God himself. Here are five tracks I've had on rotation all weekend, excluding the singles we've already heard and loved:

1. Weston Road Flows: "Weston Road Flows" is one of the most real, authentic pieces on this album. That old-school Mary J. Blige sample and thumping beat (hats off, 40) lay the perfect foundation for Aubrey reminiscing to his pre-Forest Hill days. As he mentions on "U With Me?," Drake "made a career off reminiscing," and this standout showcases it best.

2. Feel No Ways: I thought OVO signees Majid Jordan missed the mark with their recent debut album, but when I think back to their involvement on "Hold On, We're Going Home" and now this shimmery pop gem, I have renewed faith in their abilities. While Drake crooning about an ex-lover's slight isn't shocking, it's surprisingly welcome when stirred with some Dev Hynes-style synths and retro beats.

3. Views: The title track is one of the strongest on the whole album (as it should be). While Drake usually Dad-dances the fine line between pop and hip-hop, on "Views," he's a triumphant rapper with punchy choice words about loyalty and life in the limelight. Combined with that deep Maneesh beat, "If I was you, I wouldn't like me either" are some of my favourite album-closing words.

4. With You (feat. PartyNextDoor): When you roll with up-and-coming OVO fam like PND on trop-R&B cuts like this, who needs new friends? This album has no shortage of pretty pop singles - I mean, it's sort of a pop album - but this one takes the (cheese) cake as my summer sixteen anthem. (The hokey wordplay is rubbing off - send help.)

5. Grammys (feat. Future): I had a bit of a What a Time To Be Alive flashback with this banger, because, again, Future stole the spotlight. Neither Drake nor Future are groundbreaking lyricists - that's not why we love them so much - but Future's cadence, grimy rasp and character took this song from average to earworm.